There are differences between a hangover and alcohol poisoning and although both are not good, one can be deadly. Some symptoms to watch for after a heavy drinking session are the individual may experience a variety of physiological defects such as general lethargy, headache, nausea, sensitivity to light, diarrhea and thirst. Within a short span of time, they may also experience more immediate physiological effects such as nausea leading to excessive vomiting, pale and bluish skin, irritability, confusion or stupor and loss of consciousness.
If it seems like these symptoms are almost identical, it is because they are. The truth, however, is that the first set of symptoms are the classic signs of a hangover and will usually go away after the individual has had some time to rest and recuperate. The second set describes alcohol poisoning symptoms and these indicate a more dangerous medical condition.
If the individual does not receive prompt medical attention within the first few hours since the onset of the symptoms, he is in grave danger of dying. Unconscious individuals are in danger of choking on their own vomit due to loss of control of the gag reflex or of cardiovascular failure leading to death.
This is why you should not mistake alcohol poisoning for a mere hangover. The biggest difference between the two is alcohol poisoning symptoms can manifest even while the individual is still drinking. The symptoms will appear almost immediately after the person has reached his alcohol tolerance threshold.
For a normal person without any medical training, however, it can be nearly impossible to tell the two conditions apart. A good rule of thumb is to treat any unusual behavior after an excessive drinking session as alcohol poisoning. This is not paranoid behavior, but simply an attitude a cautious person should take when dealing with possible alcohol poisoning.
Alcohol poisoning treatment may require a stomach pump, kidney dialysis, oxygen treatment, intravenous fluids or any combination of these treatments and will always be coupled with constant close monitoring of the victim until he is out of danger.